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Coinbase CEO: App Store Rules “Protect Apple From Competition”

Brian Armstrong, co-founder and CEO of leading crypto exchange Coinbase, lambasted Apple Inc over the weekend, claiming the tech giant was undermining people’s ability to make money in the midst of a recession. Armstrong criticized in particular Apple for restricting certain features of the Coinbase app.

“Why would Apple want to prevent people from earning money during a recession? They seem to not be ok with it, if it uses cryptocurrency. I’m not sure why,” Armstrong wrote, referring to the Coinbase Earn product.

“We sometimes end up in bizarre negotiations with them, modifying the product, and asking users to jump through hoops (do a task on mobile, then move to the web to claim your reward!) to comply with their guidelines,” the Coinbase CEO added.

After Coinbase’s app launched in 2013, Apple removed it from the App Store a month later. Armstrong claimed Apple had interfered with the development of decentralized apps, comparing the actions to Microsoft Corporation’s bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows in the nineties.

Armstrong said that cryptocurrency firms are “reluctant to speak out on these topics for fear of retaliation.” Coinbase’s previous attempts to settle disputes with Apple behind closed doors have led to a “dead end.” 

Apple prohibited Coinbase from adding two features to its iOS apps, including the ability to earn money using cryptocurrency and access to decentralized finance (DeFI) apps. Apple’s restriction of the Coinbase Earn product forced Coinbase to make its app less user friendly. He said crypto apps today do not lack features due to the ingenuity on the part of developers, but, rather, due to such features “being censored by Apple.” 

Apple also bars Coinbase from providing app users with a list of decentralized applications, both of which “are really just websites.” Apple reportedly told Coinbase: “”Your app offers cryptocurrency transactions in non-embedded software within the app, which is not appropriate for the App Store.” 

Armstrong claimed that Apple is motivated by a “conflict of interest.” Although the restrictions “are ostensibly designed to protect customers, it increasingly looks like they are also protecting Apple from competition,” he wrote.

According to Armstrong, Coinbase plans to submit a formal request to Apple to change its App Store policies.